Vitalik Buterin Proposes ‘Soulbound’ NFTs – A Wild Idea?

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In a statement pointing out the drawbacks to NFTs, Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, suggested to make NFTs ‘soulbound,’ as similar to the namesake items in World of Warcraft (WoW). The blockchain pioneer’s logic behind the proposal stems from his fear of the illegitimacies that may arise if personal items with strict prerequisites were to ever be stored on-chain. 

The soulbound items of WoW which Buterin refers to serve two purposes, with the first being that they unquestionably represent an achievement by the holder, as they can only be earned through accomplishing a certain challenge, and not via trade or heirloom. The second purpose, which happens to be the primary reason as to why the soulbound concept was implemented into the game, is to prohibit ’twinking,’ where players pass down items from high level to low level characters in order to dramatically speed up the grinding process of fighting monsters to gain experience.

In regards to the two purposes, it can be said that Buterin’s intuition behind his proposal relates more to the former, as the Canadian-Russian programmer outlined his concern surrounding the idea to store driver’s licenses, university degrees, and other personal documents on-chain, as they may be able to be purchased by blockchain users who don’t meet the necessary conditions.

Irrespective of your stance on Buterin’s proposal, it would be naïve to assume that such deduction of the asset’s transferability wouldn’t run the risk of plummeting their commercial viability. Whilst it may not be the most wholesome use of the asset, the concept of ‘flipping’ NFTs, that is, to buy and sell them with the unilateral purpose of making a profit, seems to be a primary reason why many people first become interested in the realm. To paint a clearer picture of such argument, one can simply ponder what interest Gary Vee, the outspoken NFT advocate and entrepreneur, would have for such ‘soulbound’ NFTs.

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